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Selecting an IP Management System: Why Zynga Chose IPfolio

“Implementing IPfolio made me a hero at Zynga.”

- Teddy Joe, Senior Patent Counsel and Mayor of PatentVille, Zynga Inc. 


It’s always fascinating to speak with IPfolio customers and discuss their process of selecting an IP management system. Zynga Senior Patent Counsel Teddy Joe is in the house today to describe how Zynga ultimately chose IPfolio and the experience using the system.

Before the Mayor of PatentVille - yes, this is on Teddy’s business card - describes his experience selecting an IP management system, some corporate background is necessary;

Former CEO Marc Pincus founded Zynga in 2007, naming it after his dog Zinga. The company went public (NASDAQ: ZNGA) in 2011 and is one of the biggest developers of online, social and mobile games. Tens of millions play its franchises, which include FarmVille, Zynga Poker, Words With Friends, CSR2 Racing, and social casino games like Hit It Rich, Black Diamond Casino, Wizard of Oz, and Wonka slots every day.

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IPfolio: Thanks for the time Teddy, let’s start with the IP org chart at Zynga? Who does what?

Joe: Our IP/Product Group currently comprises several attorneys and paralegals, whose responsibilities are split into patents, trademarks, copyright and product. Although I also support other legal areas such as data privacy, product compliance, and M&A, I am the sole patent attorney in the company. Designing and executing on the global patent strategy is my primary focus.

IPfolio: When did you join?

I joined Zynga in May 2014 from Salesforce. I’d heard about the position from a friend who was formerly Zynga’s AGC of Patents. He left to take on a role as Director of IP at another company. During my Salesforce years I had learned a ton about portfolio building, M&A and M&A integration, and how to execute a strategy, so I thought Zynga would be a fun fit for me.

Taking Inventory

IPfolio: What did you find when you arrived at Zynga?

It’s important to understand where we were as a company. The amazing Facebook-driven craze and 2011 IPO were in the rear-view mirror. There were a large number of assets pending, but not a lot issued – fewer than 100 issued, I believe. And the market for our online social gaming franchises was changing. We needed to update our IP strategy to better reflect our evolving product strategy.

IPfolio: What were your early priorities?

When I interviewed with Zynga, I had a strong idea of where I thought the business might go. Using publicly available information, I prepared and presented a patent strategy during my interviews.

Of course, this strategy shifted a bit in my first six months as I learned more about the company from the inside. I spent that time analyzing the game industry and our presence in it, identifying short and long-term opportunities, figuring out the needs of the portfolio and what we needed to put in place in order to have an effective patent management system.

IPfolio: IPfolio: What was the technology platform at the time?

Everything was in a spreadsheet that was shared with outside counsel. It was clear from the beginning that I needed a patent management tool to help me understand the assets that were already filed, as well as help bring in new assets to grow the portfolio.

IPfolio: Did you have any personal experience with other IP management systems before you started looking around?

I tried demo accounts with other IP management systems, plus I had used a custom-built system at Salesforce.

IPfolio: Was there a catalyst or eureka moment as far as deciding you needed to upgrade the technology?

Fortunately, we already had an RFP process in motion to implement an in-house docketing system. Thanks to my predecessor and colleagues, the need to invest in our IP technology and processes was already well understood by our executives. But I didn't need docketing; I needed patent management, and was able to refocus the project on what we really needed, a robust management system that was cost effective and easy to use.

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The Needs Analysis

IPfolio: Where did you start?

Where I think most people start; my personal network. I asked friends at other companies for advice. I knew Facebook, Dropbox and Square had recently gone through the same process. They had all chosen IPfolio so I was able to learn about their evaluation processes and why they had all reached the same conclusion.

My Salesforce years also played a part. While I was there, I’d learned how to build up a company using organic innovation and patent-driven technology growth, as well as tackle expansion through acquisition and product integration.

Perhaps more importantly from a career perspective, I’d also learned how to summarize strategy and make presentations to the C-suite. This is something you don’t typically learn as an associate or a junior in-house attorney. I knew the value of being able to condense strategy points into a two or three-page deck. I wanted a system that would make it easy for me to do this.

IPfolio: Did you create a formal wishlist of features and functionality?

Not exactly. I was more interested in the bigger picture. You can learn about the individual details and features during the demos and trial periods. I wanted a robust patent management system that could help map out my portfolio and tell me its composition at any time. Pricing was a consideration, as was ease of use.

The system needed to be easy for our engineers and inventors to access. Having obviously had a lot of experience using Salesforce for things like contracts and budgeting, mirroring the ease of use in Salesforce was sort of my litmus test.

IPfolio: Did you rank or prioritize the importance of certain functionality?

Not really. But you can sort of group the things that mattered most to us into five buckets;

  • Portfolio status and progress: This was the ability to look quickly at the portfolio, compare my patent strategy and demonstrate progress.
  • Reporting flexibility: I had to be able to create reports and visualizations for the C-suite.
  • Ease-of-use from the perspective of our IP department team: My paralegal at the time had zero docketing or IP management experience, but she was a fast learner.
  • Ease-of-use from the perspective of inventors: We needed an invention disclosure portal that engineers would actually use. The software UI and UX needed to look good and work logically.
  • Total Cost of Ownership: This covered both the upfront payment and ongoing costs, as well as any support requirements.

IPfolio: What companies did you look at and how did you evaluate them?

We vetted all the different systems out there. I had demos with all of them and then requested a demo account from a couple. IPfolio was one. We configured our Single Sign On (SSO) and basically confirmed that we could do everything we wanted to do on our functionality list. Being already familiar with Salesforce, I didn’t need to spend much time on issues such as security, data storage, mobility or mobile availability.

The Business Case for IPfolio

IPfolio: What distinguished IPfolio from the alternatives?

There was a very big difference. Without going into details, with the other systems, you needed to have a seat or a special account. They were cost-prohibitive financially. As far as product design, some were so ugly, I thought our engineers might flat-out refuse to use them.

In contrast, IPfolio was completely different. I knew customizability wasn’t just some baseless marketing claim because I’d looked at your customers’ other implementations. Their UIs were completely customized. I knew we weren’t going to need it but simply knowing that the system had the capability was something our DGC would love.

IPfolio: So why IPfolio? How did you make your decision?

Overall, it was a no-brainer; IPfolio was the clear winner and the only one that met our portfolio mapping and management needs. I could easily categorize the portfolio and how I was executing on the patent strategy in a visualization then drop it into a Google deck.

When I showed our DGC how I could log into the system on a cell phone using SSO, access invention disclosure forms, and check on the status of a previous application, her enthusiastic response was “that’s great, that’s what we need.” My Salesforce familiarity contributed, too, because I knew how to navigate the UI. Price was also a factor; IPfolio was much more cost-effective than the competition.

IPfolio: What was the implementation process?

From budget approval and contract signing, to going live, implementation required just over a month. Everything happened between Thanksgiving and Christmas. The IPfolio customer support team rebuilt our IP database in two days. They configured workflows and SSO access for us, and built an engineer-friendly invention disclosure portal that our GC loved. It was really fast.

IPfolio: As a project, how long did it take in total?

I started my research in May. IPfolio implementation began in November. We went live in late-December with a soft launch. My paralegal at the time had no trouble learning the system. When everyone returned from Christmas vacation, we were ready.

Will the IP Hero Please Stand Up

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IPfolio: What were some of the early results?

Rolling out IPfolio was a huge success for us. It pretty much made me a hero in my first year at Zynga. Within the first month, we received our first invention disclosure via our SSO system, which was fairly eye-opening.

All our objectives were realized;

  • Portfolio mapping: I was able to map and visualize exactly as planned. With drag-and-drop reporting, I was able to create charts and graphs that made my quarterly PatentVille presentations to executives and our GC a lot more convincing. These quarterly reports summarized and showcased that I was not only designing a strategy but executing on it as well.
  • Ease of use: The invention disclosure portal example I just described pretty much describes the overall ease of use for everyone. Whether it’s engineers, inventors, our IP team or outside counsel, IPfolio is very easy to learn and use.
  • Total Cost of Ownership: By choosing a cloud-based option built on Salesforce, our five-year projected TCO was much lower than with either Lecorpio or Thomson IP Manager.

IPfolio: What about benefits that may have not been so obvious early on?

There’s certainly more beyond portfolio mapping. IPfolio’s PAIR integration, or PairSync, is an integrated add-on service of daily updates and fully searchable document syncing. It’s super efficient and streamlines our outside counsel work, which reduces their invoices, of course.

Inventor portal submissions have grown steadily. We now have a very efficient and systematic process that covers evaluation, nurturing, protection and rewards for the inventors. The quality of our quarterly reporting means that executives don’t have to worry whether our important IP assets are protected or not.

IPfolio: Has anything changed as far as your use of the platform?

I’m sure we’re not using all the functionality like some customers, but for us, IPfolio is working extremely well. What we hoped for turned out to be what we received and more.

IPfolio: Any takeaways for our readers?

IPfolio is an excellent tool. If you are really interested in managing and monitoring your assets and showcasing how your patent strategy is being executed upon, this is your platform. The Mayor of PatentVille highly recommends it.

Thanks to Teddy for the time and advice. You can download a PDF of the Zynga case study here 

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